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Can I Laugh On Your Shoulder?

May 1, 2019

Ethical issues surrounding the jewelry industry are often vague and misunderstood. Movies like Blood Diamond examine these problems, but we need to go deeper to fully understand the ethical issues surrounding gold and diamond purchases. Marc Choyt is the president of Reflective Jewelry. He joins us to answer all of your questions on ethical jewelry and show you how your jewelry purchases impact lives around the world.

Things You Don't Want To Miss:

Meet Today's Guest

  • 1:25 - Marc Choyt is the president of Reflective Jewelry, the first and only Fairtrade certified gold jewelry in the United States. He initiated the first ethical jewelry blog in 2006 which eventually evolved into Fair Jewelry Action, a human rights and environmental justice network.

The Marc 101

  • 3:20 - Marc's wife was a self-taught jeweler. In 1995, he started driving around the country and trying to sell her handiwork. At the time, he was also funding ecological preservation, and an epiphany in his preservation efforts gave him new awareness to the ecological harm brought about by gold mining in other areas of the world. He wants the sourcing of his material to match the symbolism behind his jewelry.

A Lack Of Information  

  • 6:20 - The average consumer doesn't know much about the sourcing of gold and gemstones. We've heard about conflict diamonds, but that's about it. Marc explains the narrowness of the definition given to conflict diamonds.
  • 9:10 - In the 80s and 90s, millions of people were killed in wars funded by diamonds. However, nobody has been held accountable for the decisions to fund those wars.
  • 10:25 - Marc explains the issues surrounding the term "conflict free."

Where Are Gold And Diamonds Sourced?

  • 13:09 - Marc explains the difference in large and small-scale mining. Basically, 80 percent of the gold supply chain comes from large-scale mining operations. However, small-scale mining operations involve 90 percent of gold labor, and small-scale mining operations are often dangerous and exploitive.
  • 16:36 - Gold comes from veins running under the earth as well as on the surface. It runs in all kinds of situations.
  • 17:39 - Diamonds aren't as widely concentrated as gold. Diamond resources tend to come from Canada, Russia, and South Africa.

Asking Questions Leads To Change

  • 20:08 - "Mine Your Own Gemstone" shops are prevalent tourist locations, especially in the mountains of North Carolina. The idea is you get a bucket of dirt, and you sift through the mud to look for stones. These businesses claim these stones are locally sourced, and many times they are. However, you need to know where your materials are coming from. Asking questions leads to change.

Question Your Jewelers

  • 23:08 - Different mining operations involve different levels of toxicity. Some operations are relatively harmless, but others involve dangerous levels of mercury.
  • 24:00 - Ask your jewelers where their resources are coming from. The term "conflict free" is misleading, and it only scratches the surface of the issues surrounding gold and diamond mining.
  • 26:45 - We need to focus our energy on change that impacts the small-scale miner. Certain purchases don't actually make a difference, and we need to focus on impacting the lives of small-scale miners.

Fair Trade Versus Fairtrade

  • 31:50 - "Fair Trade" refers to the broader movement where organizations source products from artisan communities. The idea is that your business or organization is directly connected to the community, and therefore, your customers' purchases directly impact the lives of those who are making them.
  • 33:09 - The term "Fairtrade" is trademarked by an organization out of Bonn, Germany. It's called Fairtrade International, and the organization conducts audits and provides certifications to small-scale gold mining operations. The organization ensures companies are upheld to a high standard of ethical practices.
  • 34:52 - If you're a jeweler working with metals and gems, you need to begin the process of determining where your source material is being produced.

The Problem With Purchasing Lab Created Diamonds  

  • 38:00 - The lab created diamond industry is up-and-coming. Millennials especially like them because they typically cost a fraction of the price of dug diamonds. However, buying lab created diamonds doesn't address the issues associated with small-scale diamond producers.

Start Small 

  • 45:30 - Whenever we talk about shopping ethically, listeners tend to get overwhelmed. After all, it's a tricky task to totally overhaul your lifestyle and buying habits. Remember, change starts with baby steps. You don't have to completely revamp your wardrobe overnight. Instead, slowly change your buying habits. Find one ethically-made product you like, and start there. Think of it like a diet. You don't get in shape overnight. It takes time, and you have to be patient as you're going through the process.

A Change Of Heart 

  • 49:00 - The process of pursuing social justice starts with aligning your heartfelt values with economic decisions. It's not always easy to do that, and it requires you ask questions along the way.

A Memorable Moment:

"This process is about aligning our heartfelt values with our economic decisions."

- Marc Choyt

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